Commanding Jorginho stands tall as Chelsea move three games away from European glory

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Matt Law
·4-min read
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Commanding Jorginho takes stands tall as Chelsea move three games away from European glory - AFP
Commanding Jorginho takes stands tall as Chelsea move three games away from European glory - AFP

Thomas Tuchel had picked out captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Mateo Kovacic as Chelsea’s fighters, but Jorginho showed his muscle to help ease the club into the semi-finals of the Champions League.

For so long a divisive figure among Chelsea supporters, perhaps Jorginho simply felt he owed Thiago Silva one after his nightmare show contributed to the Brazilian being sent-off in the 5-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Together again in Seville for the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final tie, Jorginho did not put a foot wrong in front of Silva this time and stepped up just when head coach Tuchel really needed him.

Having decided not to include young midfielder Billy Gilmour in his travelling squad, Tuchel was dealt a blow on the eve of this tie when Mateo Kovacic suffered what the German described as being a “light injury” in Chelsea’s final training session.

It was also clear that Kante was not fully fit and with two goalkeepers on the bench rather than Gilmour, Tuchel could not afford for anything to go wrong in the middle of the park against Porto.

Jorginho would not be the man Chelsea followers would naturally pick out to have to rely on in such a big game, but the 29-year-old proved more than capable and perhaps produced one of his best performances since joining from Napoli in 2018.

It was Jorginho who spared the blushes of Edouard Mendy in the 11th minute during Porto’s good start, when he got in a crucial foot to deflect Jesus Corona’s shot out of play after the Chelsea goalkeeper had passed the ball straight to the feet of the winger.

Gifting Porto a goal in the opening 15 minutes would have been exactly what Tuchel would have warned his team against doing and Jorginho’s interception got his team through the early storm and into half-time with their two-goal first-leg lead untouched.

It was not just the way Jorginho was putting himself about, getting in blocks and making tackles to disturb the Portuguese team, as he also set Chelsea away for their best attack of the opening 45 minutes.

Kai Havertz was given a sight of goal after Jorginho had played the ball out from the back expertly to Kante, who in turn found Chelsea’s false nine but Pepe was on hand to deflect his shot out of play.

In the second leg against Atletico Madrid, it had been Kante who had worked tirelessly to get Chelsea over the line, but Jorginho accepted the challenge of needing to carry more of the load against Porto with the Frenchman not yet fully match fit.

Just as Mason Mount had been accused of being a favourite of Frank Lampard, Jorginho was often cast as the teacher’s pet under former head coach Maurizio Sarri. Every club the Italian is linked with a return to a management at is usually also quickly linked with a transfer bid for Jorginho, but he has been a regular under Tuchel.

It is also worth remembering that Pep Guardiola had attempted to sign Jorginho for Manchester City before Chelsea gatecrashed that potential move and this kind of performance underlined exactly why the Spaniard wanted him.

Havertz and Christian Pulisic may have stolen the headlines in the weekend thrashing of Crystal Palace, but Jorginho had warmed up perfectly for the Porto tie with a good performance of his own at Selhurst Park and his response to the West Brom aberration has been commendable.

With Chelsea ahead from the first leg, Jorginho was able to sit just in front of the back three, who boasted a combined age of 95, and he proved a trustworthy anchor as he was constantly in the right position at the right time to mop up danger, slow down Porto attacks and win free-kicks.

Under Sarri at Chelsea, Jorginho was one of the players to win Europe’s secondary competition, but now, along with the rest of the team, he is just three games from becoming a real European champion.

His contribution in the Champions League so far should not be understated and it would seem that Jorginho is much more comfortable mixing it with Europe’s best than the West Broms of this world.